Friendswood city staff responded to resident complaints this month regarding the ongoing expansion of Whispering Pines to a four-lane corridor, stating that expanding an older roadway makes is difficult to follow rules laid out for new developments.
Last month, a group of property owners in the Timberfield subdivision, some of whom saying they are engineers themselves, appeared before City Council to voice concern about the amount of right-of-way provided for the ongoing expansion.
“We’re concerned about the close proximity of the street to our property line,” resident Connie Pritchard said.
Before the construction, there was a least 12 feet of buffer from the street, she said.
“Now we basically have a sidewalk,” she said.
Residents said the width of the right-of-way for a major thoroughfare must be at least 120 feet or 80 feet, depending on how the street is defined. But the right-of-way of Whispering Pines is set at 60 feet, they pointed out. The city placed the item on the next meeting’s agenda, Aug. 3, and assistant City Manager Morad Kabiri said the majority of the project lies in a 100-foot to a 140-foot right-of-way.
“A small section lies in a 60-foot right-of-way,” he said.
“I want to say, emphatically, the roadway as being built today and as being designed, complies with city ordinances and regulations adopted by this city council and prior city councils.
“A lot of the regulations they referenced relate to the subdivision ordinance Section 3,” he said. “And a lot of the subsections highlighted therein stipulate that collector streets, which Whispering Pines is, should be located within an 80-foot right-of-way.”
These, he said, apply to the laying out of new streets.
“Whispering Pines Avenue/Friendswood Link Road was platted in 1895 as part of the original Friendswood subdivision,” Kabiri told the council. “Much like any project, we try to fit our budget with what we have to work with, and try to comply with and be as good stewards of the funding as possible.”
Other concerns cited regarding sidewalk placement, he said, work only for new streets.
“If we had the luxury of building this street in a new area, we would be glad to comply with the regulations,” he said. “The reality is for us to provide an 80-foot right-of-way, four to six houses would have to be condemned in order to make the project work. City staff nor council nor the city engineers didn’t think that was the prudent thing to do.”
The expansion is being funded in part by a 2011 grant of Disaster Recovery Funds through the General Land Office of Texas.
“The City of Friendswood didn’t design this project. The City of Friendswood did not hire the engineer that designed this project,” he concluded. “The State of Texas, the General Land Office, hired the engineer firm to design it and they also hired a separate third party to oversee their work. We’re talking professional licensed engineers (with all agencies) who have reviewed this project.”
“We are not putting the citizens of Friendswood in any less safer environment than they are anywhere else in the city,” he said.
Councilman did express concerns about visibility on the expanded roadway when coming from the subdivision.
“I understand you are trying to cram 10 gallons into a 5-gallon bucket,” Councilman Carl Gustafson said. “I would encourage the residents to work with the city in entering an agreement. You’re going to have more say in what happens. If you don’t, you get what they give you.”